There's a powerful story somewhere in Open Window, one about a couple trying to retain its bond after a violent, unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, the film tells this story so poorly that it undermines its impact with generic and broad characterizations. Powerful truths about rape recovery emerge only obliquely, through a screen of awkward dialogue and clunky direction.
Robin Tunney and Joel Edgerton star as Izzy and Peter, two newly engaged sweethearts whose lives go awry after a man sneaks into the shed where Izzy works on her photography, rapes her and leaves her tied up and gagged in a closet. They soon discover how hard it is to find happiness and any level of normalcy after such a traumatic experience.
Their effort to reclaim life in the face of depression and stress requires a subtle, delicate touch, but Open WIndow doesn't have one. Tunney supplies in an admirable performance, but she struggles through a series of obvious and uninteresting scenes. Conversations tend to be either boring or contrived.
The film may accidentally offer a rape victim's perspective on her conversations with friends and family, but from the its third-person perspective, the dialogue is forced and clumsy. The idea of Cybill Shepherd's too-eager-to-help mother makes sense, but the screenplay presents such a grotesque exaggeration that it loses all credibility. In her first conversation with her daughter about the rape, no caring mother would declare, "I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me." Unbelievable lines like that not only belittle the sensitivity of their characters, but also undermine Tunney's performance.
The film is as much Peter's story as Izzy's. He blames himself for the crime because he fixed up the shed, and no longer can relate to the woman he loves. But Egderton performs the part with the energy of a slug. Each smile and frown feels as contrived as the dialogue, and his underlying frustration with watching his fiancée trap herself in depression shifts from nonexistent to over-the-top.
The rape itself isn't portrayed graphically. The film gradually and tastefully unveils what happened through flashbacks to the haunting memory. Izzy engages in imaginary conversations with the rapist in order to exercise her personal demons, but the scenes are too overcooked to be taken seriously. If the film's topic were less of a downer, it might be ripe for a jovial mockery--you could invite your friends over to see how silly the movie is. But Open Window makes you want to connect with it. So when it pushes you away, it's even more frustrating.
Image's DVD presents Open Window in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer (presumably opened up slightly from the 1.85:1 intended theatrical ratio). The muted colors fit the subdued story, and the transfer accurately portrays the film's look and feel. The encode maintains a solid picture without any distracting compression artifacts.
The disc includes well-done 5.1 and stereo mixes, as well as English and Spanish subtitles. While this quiet drama isn't your typical sound showcase for booming explosions or wowing directionality, it does feature some nice sound design with recurring motifs like the wind-chimes that were ringing during the rape. The only hinderance is that sometimes the music--incidental and not--is less than great, and plays more prominently than it needs to. This, however, is a creative quibble, not a technical one.
The DVD comes with a decent selection of standard extras, including the theatrical trailer, a couple of making-of featurettes and audio commentary with writer/director Mia Goldberg and producers Thomas Barad and Midge Sanford.
With the exception of the trailer, the Special Features are all presented in the 4:3 aspect ratio, with full-screen interviews and lower-quality, letterboxed clips from the film. The clips are soft and filled with artifacts, and I suspect the video was already compressed once before the DVD encoding. The interview footage remains acceptable for supplementary material.
The two featurettes are standard, competently made behind-the-scenes documentaries. Inside "Open Window" features the cast and crew in a typically self-aggrandizing overview of the film's themes and background. In "Open Window": A Personal Journey, Goldman discusses her personal experience, and how she did and didn't draw on it while making the film.(She touches on some of the same subjects in the audio commentary.)
The audio commentary, accessible in the Setup menu instead of the Special Features, is a bit repetitive, with the occasional extended period of silence. But it includes a wealth of discussion of the film's inspiration and production.
There's also a 30-second public service announcement featuring Cybil Shepherd, for the rape-recovery organization RAINN.
Open Window takes on a rarely explored and important aspect of the survivor's story, looking not only at the affect the attack has on the victim, but on her loved ones. And the film earns some value simply for making a noble effort. Unfortunately, the uneven performances and poor dialogue sink the film. While fans of the film will find an nice DVD, I recommend that those who haven't seen the film wait for a better one to do the subject justice.
Jeremy Mathews has been subjecting films to his criticism since 2000. He has contributed to several publications, including Film Threat, Salt Lake City Weekly, the Salt Lake Tribune, In Utah This Week and The Wasatch Journal. He also runs the blog The Same Dame and fronts the band NSPS.